Europa Europa - description
Europa Europa is a 1990 German language film directed by Agnieszka Holland. Its original German title is Hitlerjunge Salomon, which means Hitler Youth Salomon. It is based on the 1989 autobiography by Solomon Perel, a Jew who escaped persecution by the Nazis by masquerading as an Aryan. The film stars Marco Hofschneider and Julie Delpy, along with the real-life Perel as himself. The film is an international co-production between companies in Germany, France and Poland.
The film should not be confused with the 1991 Lars von Trier film Europa, which was initially released as Zentropa in the United States to avoid such a confusion.
Solek (a nickname for Solomon, also called "Solly") and his family live in Germany. On the eve of Solek's bar mitzvah, Kristallnacht occurs. His sister is killed and he, his parents, and two brothers, David and Isaak, move to Lodz, Poland, believing they will be safer there. When the Germans attack Poland from the west during the September Campaign, Solek's father sends him and his brother Isaak east, where they encounter Soviet troops invading from the other direction. In the general confusion the brothers are separated, and Solek is placed in a Soviet orphanage in Grodno.
Solek lives in the orphanage for two years, where he joins the Komsomol. One scene features a Russian language version of the German Communist classic song Dem Morgenrot Entgegen before mail call, where Solek receives a letter from his parents who have been re-settled in a ghetto. When the Germans attack the Soviet Union during Operation Barbarossa, the orphans flee, and Solek is separated from the others. He is picked up by German soldiers, convinces them he is a member of a German-speaking minority outside Germany, and is able to make himself useful to them as an interpreter, thanks to his command of German and Russian. He identifies Stalin's son, Yakov Dzhugashvili, who is captured at the same time by the Germans. He pretends to be a German named Josef "Jupp" Peters, and says that his parents came from Latvia and that he grew up in a German community in Poland. Later, a closeted gay German soldier named Robert discovers the truth but promises not to tell anyone. The two become friends. After Robert and two other comrades are killed in combat, Solek attempts to desert to the Soviet side. However, as he is attempting to surrender, he realizes he has been followed by fellow German soldiers who then command the Soviets to surrender. Solek, again as Josef, is seen as a war hero. This allows him to leave the front and go to an elite Hitler Youth school after his captain, a nobleman from Pomerania, offers to adopt him. On the train, after realizing he shares a birthday and many physical similarities with Hitler, the woman escorting him begins making physical and sexual advances at Solek. Finally, after a ticket check, they begin having sex, with the woman moaning and yelling "Mein Führer!!".
At the school, Josef's face is measured for racial purity with calipers, and is found to be of "Aryan stock", although he is in fact Jewish. On one occasion, a doctor visits the school to perform a health examination, and when Solek learns that he would have to undergo the exam naked, he pretends to have a violent toothache to avoid revealing his circumcision and Jewish identity. Solek falls in love with a German girl called Leni, a fervent Nazi who lost her father in the war. But he must accept that their love has no future because he is circumcised and can't be intimate with Leni without revealing his secret. The two argue after Solek reacts to a particularly antisemitic remark by Leni, who calls him a Schlappschwanz (limp-dick). After several months without seeing her, Solek visits her mother, who has no love for the Nazis and who tells him Leni is pregnant and intends to "give the child to the Führer". Solek soon realizes that the father of the child must be his best friend Gerd, a fellow Hitler Youth classmate. When Leni's mother presses Josef on his identity, he breaks down and confesses that he is a Jew; she promises not to betray him. Leni never finds out.
Josef is called to a police station to clear up an issue with his papers. He produces everything except the Certificate of Racial Purity, which he says is still in Grodno; the commander says he will send for it at once to stop it from falling into Russian hands should the city be taken. He then goes into a delusional rant believing that the Endsieg can still be achieved with Hitler's "wonder weapons". As Josef leaves the building, it is bombed; Gerd, who was waiting for him outside, is killed by falling rubble.
The Hitler Youth at the school are sent to the front to defend Berlin. There Solek manages to surrender to the Red Army, with whom he can speak Russian. His captors refuse to believe that he is a Jew, not a German. "If you're a Jew, why don't you look like this? Look!", demands a Russian officer as he forces Solek to look at photos of murdered Jews from the death camps they had liberated. They are about to have Solek shot by an elderly Communist political prisoner (wearing a red triangle on his camp uniform) when Solek's brother Isaak, just released from a concentration camp, identifies Solek and saves him. He is released shortly thereafter and emigrates to the British Mandate of Palestine, the future State of Israel, where he embraces his Jewish heritage.